Rhode Island Elementary and Middle School Test Results
State assessments of all Rhode Island public elementary and middle schools are available today from the Rhode Island Department of Education website. The final summary classifies each school as “high performing”, “moderately performing”, or as making “insufficient progress”, but the intermediate data presented suggests that the final classifications have more to do with some obscure bureaucratic criteria than with how well students are learning. For example, you can find schools rated as “high performing” even though less than half of their students are rated as proficient in math; some schools with less than one third of students proficient in math receive a rating of “moderately performing”
Last week’s Time Magazine article on the present and future of the No Child Left Behind Act helps explain some of the limitations of the testing system being used…
The do-or-die [adequate yearly progress] system creates perverse incentives. It rewards schools that focus on kids on the edge of achieving grade-level proficiency….There’s no incentive for schools to do much of anything for the kids who are on grade level or above, which is one reason the law is unpopular in wealthier, high-achieving communities. And sadly, says [California Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell], “NCLB provides no incentive to work on the kids far below the bar.”However, the real question here is why anyone ever thought that a bureaucracy-centered reform was going to do anything but encourage mediocrity or worse. When the main criteria that bureaucrats will be judged by is a paper evaluation of the systems they administrate, those bureaucrats have a powerful incentive to define success down and set the most modest goals they can get away with, so they can meet this year’s goals with minimum risk and leave room for improvement next year.
If you don’t think that these kinds of perverse bureaucratic incentives are a significant impediment to education reform, in Rhode Island and elsewhere, then explain how a school with 32% of its students proficient in writing and 47% proficient in math can be classified as “high performing”.